New research suggests that when the UK leaves the European Union, an annual limit of 30,000 work permits for workers from EU countries should be sufficient to allow businesses access to the skills they needs.

If the kind of policy mentioned in the study from Migration Watch UK is adopted, it would achieve a reduction of about 100,000 a year in net migration from the EU over the medium term.

All this means fewer jobs available to people from EU countries who want to move to the UK to live and work. However, Migration Watch UK has previously argued that new immigration rules should minimise disruption to the many links between Britain and Europe.

In the latest of its analysis papers, the non-political think tank suggests it should be remembered that the UK is leaving the EU, not leaving Europe and to that end there should be no restrictions on tourists, business visitors, students, or retired people.

However, it believes that those who want to move to the UK for work must be confined to highly skilled roles necessary for sustainable economic growth. The paper argues that a limit of 30,000, along the same lines as the current yearly limit of 20,700 restricting non-EU workers to highly skilled roles, should be placed on EU migrants arriving for work in the UK.

It explains that an analysis of the Labour Force Survey finds that EU arrivals who are now in jobs that would qualify as highly skilled, that is jobs requiring qualifications of graduate level or above, have averaged 25,000 per year since 2006.

The organisation has assumed that all of those currently working in a highly skilled role or in a job on the Shortage Occupation List entered the country to work at that level. This ensures that the figures are not underestimating the historical demand of employers for highly skilled EU workers.

It concludes that an annual limit of 30,000 made up of 25,000 per year plus 5,000 to allow for growth, would ensure that business needs were unhindered by the transition. Migration Watch UK has previously found that reducing net migration into lower skilled work could reduce EU migration by around 100,000 a year.

It also points out that the independent Migration Advisory Committee has reported that migration into lower skilled work brings little or no benefit to the budget, production per head or productivity but it does add to pressure on population, schools, hospitals, transport and housing.

It also said that people need to realise that it should be expected that British citizens travelling to other parts of Europe after Brexit to work will also need to apply for a work permit for that particular country.

‘A sensible limit on skilled EU migration would maintain the inflow of qualified EU workers who benefit our society and economy while allowing some room for expansion,’ said Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of Migration Watch UK.

‘At the same time, closing our doors to low skilled workers is also essential to reduce the scale of immigration and restore public confidence in its control,’ he added.